When people refer to the "writer's temperament", it's not usually such a good thing. Moody, they mean. Over-sensitive. Neurotic. Volatile.
Even, sometimes, crazy.
Look at how writers are portrayed in movies! I give you:
Stranger than Fiction (neurotic, crazy, alcoholic, chain-smoker)
Sideways (depressed, neurotic, self-destructive, alcoholic)
And, of course, The Shining.
I think you get the point.
Yet almost none of the authors I know fit this profile. We manage to hold down real jobs, not kill people, not self-destruct on a regular basis...we even look normal (mostly).
However, I do find that most of the writers I know--at least the ones I hang out with on a regular basis--have two basic traits in common, both stemming from the same source: our imaginations.
We do tend to worry a lot. We spin around and around in our heads the worst possible thing that might happen--our agent HATES our latest book, clearly, and that's why she hasn't responded in 24 hours...not that she hasn't even opened the email yet. Our family member's trip could end in disaster: we can picture getting the call, how we would react, probe how we would feel, a little, before we shove that thought away. See, it's our job to make the worst possible thing happen to our protagonists, then get into their heads and figure out how they'd take it. So it's natural for us to carry that over a little. What if there was a writer out there writing our lives? What finger-from-God would point down on us right NOW?
Okay, so maybe that makes us a tiny bit neurotic. Sometimes. But it's balanced with:
By this I mean gratitude for the present, for our current state of not-the-worst-possible-thing. If I can always imagine the worst, I can also always be glad it hasn't happened. This is how I can be driving into work this morning in heavy snow, fifteen minutes late because the extended care teacher for Child's school didn't show, and just be happy. Happy I didn't get into a horrific accident on the way, or have a seizure, or get attacked by anger-creatures or vampires or get sucked into an alternate world. Happy that my kid is well and at school, even if she left her snow boots locked in the other classroom. It could have been worse. If I was one of my characters, it absolutely would be worse, just to make things interesting.
Oh yeah, that last little bit might just be telling about the temperament of many of us writers too. We love to give our characters grief. Call it a little masochism streak, maybe. But in with the worry and the gratitude (and the generosity, which comes from empathy, I think), it all balances out. Not to crazed psycho self-absorbed people, but to us, hiding among you. Slightly crazed-with-worry, but ever hopeful. Seeing the world as it is alongside the world as it could be.